Arians: TEs block first, catch second

Posted by Darren Urban on February 21, 2014 – 11:17 am

The best tight end in the NFL? Bruce Arians doesn’t name Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. He picks Heath Miller. “Not because he catches 90 passes,” the Cardinals’ coach said at the Scouting combine Friday. “But because he blocks big defensive ends.”

Herein lies the Arians philosophy on tight ends, and why those guys piling up catch totals in spread college offenses might not be the guy the Cardinals will want going forward: “Tight ends for me block first, catch second,” Arians said.

Those guys are pretty rare these days. Rob Housler was a catch-first guy when he was drafted, and while he isn’t great blocker, Arians said he has leaned to block “adequately.” The Cardinals need tight ends, depending on the free agents they might bring back. Arians does believe a pass-catcher can be taught to block, but they have to have the right body type and they have to be willing to do it. “A lot of guys are not willing to stick their face in the fan,” Arians said with a chuckle.

Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro is considered a catch-first tight end and probable high draft pick who flourished in Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo offense. But Amaro said when Tommy Tuberville was coaching Tech, Amaro had to block first.

“I think it’s just a want-to thing,” Amaro said. “I’ve always had the technique; I’ve always had the drive. When I’m asked to block, I know I can block. I feel like it’s something that’s very overlooked of what I can do and then it’s something I’m going to have to show at the next level. But I know I’m willing to.”

It’s something that’s going to come up with any of the highly rated college tight ends. And it’s something Arians and the Cardinals are going to have to believe before they draft one, especially with a high pick.

“It’s such a unique position,” Arians said. “The best tight ends never go to the Pro Bowl because the best tight ends don’t catch 80 passes or 90 passes. Those are wide receivers.”


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23 Responses to “Arians: TEs block first, catch second”

  1. By jasonc on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    Thanks for posting this Darren. I’ve explained this many times on here before but now that you’ve written about it hopefully fans will start to understand. I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams here who are infatuated with us drafting Ebron or Amaro, I’m just saying if you want to see a TE in a Bruce Arians offense be the focal offensive weapon and go for over 1000 yards the next time it happens will be the first time.

  2. By ored on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    easy to believe since we don’t use a FB,so that begs the question,what about housler,he may have improved blocking,but still is’nt his forte and 1 year down in BAs’ offense and he’s still not a reliable reciever,can’t help but believe there are better options in FA and the draft.hoping one of the roundball players signed to a futures contract show something,be one more draft pick to use elsewhere.

  3. By D on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    I am thinking they should draft A. Lynch TE from Georgia in Round 4 in addition to resigning one or two of their own free or restricted TE’s

  4. By Big Ken on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    They have Housler under contract for low $$. Might as well keep him one more year.

  5. By Dr. G. on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    ‘Tis all about the”philosophy” of the coach, and there are many coaches who differ in that the TE is also an offensive weapon, not just a large QB defender/blocker who is targeted occasionally if the WR’s are covered… It all depends, huh? I love it when the fans go nuts when a big TE is dragging defenders for some extra yards!

    Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, Jordan Cameron, Jason Witten, on the 2014 Pro Bowl roster..some as subs…! Gronk and Gates also went previously…on and on…. We let the Coach off the hook for calling Levi Brown “elite.” We can also let him off for saying the best TE’s never go to the Pro Bowl…

    Quote: “Tight ends for me block first, catch second,” Arians said.

    Quote: Amaro said when Tommy Tuberville was coaching Tech, Amaro had to block first.

    Well, there you go… I admire Arians for holding his cards close to his vest, not wanting to give up anything on their potential board. No one will know until draft day.

    I’m loving what Arians and his staff have done with the Cards, but he would be served well to get Offensive production of some significance from his TE’s.

    With more receiving weapons available to the QB, we would hope that Defenses would have concerns about covering the TE’s as well…. If you leave them open, we will burn you… We’re gonna have an awesome team this year! A good day Cards Fans…

  6. By Dr. G. on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    jasonc – I wouldn’t want a TE to be ” the focal offensive weapon and go for over 1000 yards” as you said. We need to have many weapons; you know this.

    I just want to see other teams have the same problems covering all our receivers as we do covering theirs, including the TE’s. So far, our receiving corps has been very good, but other teams don’t seem to be worried with our TE’s.. Be well…

  7. By Big Ken on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    If Lewan is gone, then a WR at the 20th pick. But who? That Brandin Cooks is on the rise.

  8. By Coach K on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    Thank you Darren for posting this. I have said all along and in previous posts that what the Cardinals need is physical blocking tight ends with good hands. We don’t need another Rob Housler. That is exactly what Amaro and Enron are. Pass catching guys who titty block. I much prefer guys like Arthur Lynch of Georgia or even rowdy tough guys like Joe Don Duncan. I am hoping that Colt Lyerla slides down to round 6 and we grab him. He has first round talent and can do it all. Yes, he has drug baggage, but the Cardinals know how to deal with those guys and our locker room has high character guys who will steer a guy like Colt in the right direction.

    A quick comment on pick #20, I think we cannot go wrong with either Cyrus Kauandjio or Morgan Moses. One of these two will be there at pick #20 and both are very similar. Both have light feet and extremely long arms. Both requirements for left tackles. Moses just lost 20 pounds working his butt off for the combine. I love guys with strong work ethics. We can’t go wrong drafting either one of these guys with the first pick. Both are more athletic than Lewan.

    This draft is so deep, I think we can address corner and safety in rounds 2 and 3 and get really high quality players. One of those two big safeties will be there in round three. Not sure which one, but either Loston or Buchannon would look good in a Cardinal uniform.

  9. By Chuck 1 on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    Big Ken,

    If Keim selects a WR with the 20th pick, I’ll barf (and Keim should be fired). LOL
    Obviously, the Cards have much urgent needs.

  10. By Chuck 1 on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    Correctioon: “…much GREATER urgent needs”.

  11. By Dr. G. on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply

    Cards Fans – Here’s PFF’s independent opinion quoted –

    “Tight end wasn’t an area of success for the Cardinals in 2013. With Rob Housler as the projected starter at this stage it doesn’t look like they’ll improve much if they don’t find help at the position in the offseason. Poor as a blocker as well as a receiver, it’s tough to see him being successful in 2014 especially if the injury bug visits him again.”

    I think we have 4 TE’s on free agency that will probably not be significant factors this season…. Just sayin’ – we need help at TE in this draft…. Be well…

  12. By jasonc on Feb 21, 2014 | Reply


    I wasn’t trying to single anyone out and I think you’re missing the point. Arians would be just as quick to point out that a TE has to be able to be a threat in the passing game. The reason Arians likes to use multiple TE’s in his base formations is to keep the defense unable to substitute personnel to gain an advantage. This only works if your TE’s are able to do damage as blockers and receivers. No one is saying that Amaro or Ebron can’t be a guy we covet but with ASJ, Niklas, Fierdorwicz, Lynch, Gilmore and Branchflower (a guy who I really like) in the later rounds I think (my personal opinion) that there will be better value for us at different positions @20.

  13. By CORMAC on Feb 22, 2014 | Reply


    Whats up with Jeff King these days?

  14. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2014 | Reply

    Cormac —

    RE: Jeff King

    King is rehabbing his injury and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in March. I do not anticipate him returning.

  15. By clssylssy on Feb 22, 2014 | Reply

    I sometimes think the media jumps on a statement or phrase and it takes on a life of it’s own, out of context, and spinning in a direction that goes against what we know from history. I believe from what I’ve seen of Coach BA’s use of players in multiple schemes, he is not saying that he believes a TEs job is to do only blocking. If we look at the way he’s used players in our last season he had about everybody, including the receivers, blocking and opening up lanes for the RBs; they still caught the ball, ran the ball and were not one dimensional. In today’s league, I believe we are going to see more and more of this. TE’s are a wildcard and can be deadly as we have had the misfortune to learn by experience.. Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis, Gronk, Gates…imagine how deadly the Cards would be with any of these guys with Fitz, Floyd, Ellington, Peterson! I know most fans are down on Housler but in fairness I thought he showed amazing growth last season which was the first time he was healthy. We definitely need some serious help at TE (we have 10 receivers already) and I’m wanting me some Tony G/Jimmy Graham type. It seems these guys who have a background playing other sports like basketball or baseball seem to pay big dividends when making the NFL their home!

  16. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2014 | Reply

    Clssy —

    RE: Out of context

    First, Arians made clear he still wants a TE that catches 60 balls.

    Secondly, not sure how the media — in this case, me — jumped on a phase and spun it out of context. I talked to Arians. He said exactly that, and he meant exactly that.

  17. By Scott H on Feb 22, 2014 | Reply

    I love Arians and there is certainly little fault I can find with him. And there is little reason for me to even TRY to find fault with him. But I gotta say that I cringe a little when I hear him identify Heath Miller as the best TE in the NFL. Really? I don’t see it. But…whatever. Every team has its own philosophy. Clearly, the Cardinals’ offensive game-planning has not utilized the TE as a weapon since….I don’t know, the Reagan administration? Carter? Ford? Niixon?

    Again, whatever. At times, I feel they REALLY could have and should have used the TE more as a pass-catching weapon. At other times ( 2007 thru 2009 ), it didn’t matter because they didn’t need a dynamic TE for the offense to be dynamic.

    But these days in the NFL? There are too many teams using the TE as a real weapon in the offense ( whether in the red zone or all over the field ) for me to continue to buy into a philosophy that the TE is a blocker first, a pass catcher second. As a general premise, I dis-agree whole-heartedly. I guess it’s just a matter of what Arians wants to do. And right now? After what I saw last season? He can do whatever he thinks is best, and I am on board.

    I WOULD like to see the TE be more a part of the offense. But if we’re having success without it. then so be it.

  18. By clssylssy on Feb 22, 2014 | Reply

    I was not referring to you specifically and am sorry you took it that way. Actually, I was speaking in generalities and, I guess my comments were directed more at PFT who has become, as one reader described, “the TMZ of sports”. Even has a tendency to jump on something and run with a controversial opinion piece based on information from the “undisclosed source”. The fact is that fans have no way of knowing when a writer is writing from a direct quote or what.
    Obviously, you have the man’s ear and my comment was based upon Coach BA’s (or maybe it’s Steve Keim’s) ability to pick players who have multidimentional skillsets, which is a stroke of genius. Nonetheless, I am a huge Tony Gonzalez fan and would love to see the Cards land a TE who does it all like TG! Sixty balls? Who would that be?

  19. By Dre on Feb 22, 2014 | Reply

    Why is there no stories regarding Levi Brown outcome.

    Last year, BA said that the o-line wasn’t as bad as everybody thought!!! Mid-way through the season last year, the Cards traded Levi Brown (Elite LT per BA) to the Steelers,for a conditional draft pick. The condition was that Brown had to be on the active roster for five games but was placed on injured reserve without playing a game for his new team.

    Considering he didn’t get through warm-ups in the first one, that condition can be considered unmet…

    What’s up with that?

    The Cards need more production on the offensive side of the ball and at the TE position there is a Grand Canyon size hole there…..

  20. By Darren Urban on Feb 22, 2014 | Reply

    Dre —

    RE: Levi

    Not sure what story you are expecting. Yes, that condition was unmet. So they don’t get a pick.

  21. By Dre on Feb 23, 2014 | Reply

    Looking at some combine results, Jace Amaro consistently had the better results then other TE who may have placed well in one or two work outs.

    Jace is a gym rat as shown in his 30 minus two equaling 28 reps in Bench Press which shows he has great strength for a TE and has above average endurance. He demonstrated good explosion and lower body strength with his 33″ vertical jump and 118″ broad jump. Sammy Watkins, a No. 1-caliber receiver had a 34″ vertical and 126 broad jump. Jace also had a good 40 time for a 6′-5″ 265 lbs TE clocking a unofficial time of 4.66.

    Jace caught 106 passes for 1352 yard and score 7 TDs. in 13 game played in college last year comparable to Calvin Johnson’s 122 rec.1,964 yard and 5 TDs in 16 games played in 2012.

    Jace has the tape proving him exceptional as a receiving TE. He has the willingness, tenacity and the tools to be a good blocking TE at the next level, as well. He is strong up top and down below to not be pushed around by NFL defenders.

    Jake Ballard is a restricted free agent for the Cardinals and should be back in 2014, He had great TE production numbers for Eli Manning and the NY Giants in 2112 with 35 rec. for 608 yard and 4 tds. In Jake’s three seasons (23 games played) he has 6 TDs compared to Rob Housler’s 1 TD in the same three years in the league.

    A TE group that includes Jace Amaro and Jake Ballard will not only fill the huge hole at the position but potentially making the Cards lethal in the passing game. Other teams will have to account for our TEs freeing up Larry Fitzgerald and Micheal Floyd while keeping extra players out the box on running plays….can you say, “Ellington gone.”

    Jace also gives the Cards the possibility to trade down out of the 20 pick to add addition draft picks in the middle rounds.

    Check out some videos…

  22. By Dr. G. on Feb 24, 2014 | Reply

    ScottH – I have but 2 words for you -“YEP!” Right on. ” Not” – So be it…

    jaxonc – I think you are on a path that will eventually meet me at the crossroads of wanting the TE to be significant offensively. You did hear Arians say yesterday that he is concerned about beefing up our defensive backfield to improve on the many times we got burned by TE’s in 2013. That is also crypto, I hope, for – “We need to get in that part of the game also.” I have my favorites, but we need to address this thing before the 3rd round is over. I try to deal in “facts” so nothing personal…not to worry. You cannot argue facts, quoted or otherwise. This is what Darren keeps repeating.

    clssylssy – That was a good (TE) post – sans the part of singling out the press.

    Dre – Yup – Well done. Just be happy Keim made the OT change.

    For my draft, if Amaro was there at #20, I would be tempted to take him. OT can be addressed in many ways. There are no good TE’s out there that won’t break the bank. The Pats are drooling to get this guy. They have not said this, but evidence is there pointing to it. Be well, Cards fans…

  23. By Eazy E on Mar 3, 2014 | Reply

    I couldn’t disagree more with Coach. In this league, the TE is such a weapon and key that screw blocking if they can’t catch a cold.

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